Bullock-cart stuck

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Constrained by habit, we get accustomed to slow and cumbersome pace of workings even when efficient and faster alternatives are available. This applies to anything one can imagine like recordkeeping and systematic filing, not in pokas as done at most government offices. As regards correspondence, the system is still bullock-cart stuck. Navigating through the realm of e-mail is still a far cry. Most PCs in government offices function no better than a kind of “half” typewriter, printer being the other half. Older generations being less computer savvy, still find it easier to rush to the bank for simple things like account statement. Computer literacy has a long way to go as there are many who are still unable to use e-mail, let alone get or send attachments. In our southern neighborhood they are trying to jump-start to a cashless economy and have discovered that it is not that simple. We have a far worse state of affairs, being embroiled in inherently unsettled politicking for over a decade and half. Underdevelopment and anarchy have been the sole winners here.

As regards writing hassles, in the days gone by, not everyone could type without looking at the keys, mistyping follows constantly like a shadow. Correcting a typo was a bigger annoyance even with white correction-fluid. It should have been no less cumbersome for editors to redo the whole thing on receiving the hard copy. Thanks to the technology, they can comfortably edit and do all sorts of layout options before the final page is set. The advent of PC and associated technology has brought in big relief in faster dissemination of information all over. At the personal level scribes are now able to dispatch write-ups in a jiffy. Unlike the legendary typewriter, any reasonably computer literate person can now write, erase and rewrite hundreds of time and finally push the send bottom on being satisfied.

For beginners seeing their write-up published in black and white brought in a sense of achievement. “Letter to editor” often happened to be the easiest way to get one’s name published. Writing in English did not come easy, given the way it was taught at schools then. But writing off-and-on, year 2016 ended being a small milestone for having achieved “two tons”, as they say in cricket, with over three decades and still batting. Writing at a leisurely pace has been my habit. Getting the first paragraph right takes about a day and thinking about the topic, before that, takes longer. Title is equally difficult to come up with, most of the time it gets changed by the time the write-up is ready.

For any scribe getting published is paramount, especially during their early years. All other things become secondary including honorarium; most do not know that they are entitled to one. As one’s writing gets mature and they get some recognition, it is natural that they get edgy on seeing unnecessary fiddling to their e-script (manuscript). Request for scribe’s comment on the edited version, is rarely pursued for reasons unknown. It would be doubly beneficial, as a good practice and better relations between the two.

No doubt, the editor has the upper hand in providing space for any opinion piece. Strong resentments, by anyone, including the scribe, often gets muffled. Pieces by globally renowned personalities are normally syndicated and get published as arranged with other media houses. We recently read about how Himal South Asia was compelled to cease publication. The government, rather than facilitating the world-class publication from Nepal, chose, among other things, to stifle it by making it impossible to pay honorarium to the contributing scribes. The symbolic importance of honorarium was highlighted by Peter J Karthak as he described as to how the noted Nepali essayist Shanker Lamichanne lovingly folded and kept the one rupee note, he received for writing the preface for one of Karthak's books, neatly in his pocket.

The honorarium has been the most neglected part for scribes. The time has changed and the process of honorarium delivery also needs to change with it. Scribe or their agents should not be compelled to come in “person”, as currently pursued by most publishers. The system is still, to put it mildly, “bullock-cart stuck”. There are ways to make it hassle-free. It can be sent through (1) an “account payee” cheque in scribe’s name and address (2) can be deposited in their bank account (3) it can even be send in cash, if they so wish, to the scribe’s address through hundreds of their newspaper delivery boys. There may be other even better ways. Media houses should mend their ways so that scribes can concentrate wholeheartedly to their writings without fretting about such mundane issue.

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